You won’t find his name on the Bethesda-Chevy Chase hockey team’s roster, nor will you spot him on the ice during games. At about five inches tall and featuring a plush interior, Barry wouldn’t provide much of a physical presence anyway.
Despite that, he has become what B-CC Coach JT Burton called, “a very important aspect to the team.”
His full name, bestowed by the B-CC players, is Barry the Baron, reflecting the team’s nickname. He resembles a Beanie Baby in the form of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot and resides on a necklace, said Burton, who purchased him online.
The Baron is the centerpiece of a new tradition in which he is presented to the team’s player of the game, who wears him in practice until the next contest. That player then decides upon the next recipient and transfers ownership.
“I think what it’s done is it’s really helped the team understand that we are more of a cohesive unit, as opposed to individuals carrying the rest of the team,” Burton said. “It’s everyone from top to bottom helping to win the game.”
In his 12th season at B-CC, Burton believes he has a deeper squad than in years past, and one with talent not reflected by its 2-4-1 record. Third-period leads disappeared in two of those losses, as well as the tie, he said.
Burton can’t remember the Baron’s precise origin but recalls seeing something on SportsCenter about a college team with a similar tradition. By the time this season began, it was adapted for B-CC’s purposes and — most importantly — the responsibility for awarding him was handed to the players.
“I think it just makes you feel like more of a part of the team,” said sophomore forward Zach Briscoe, who had the Baron last week. “Your teammates can see what you’re doing is a good thing. It’s not just your coaches saying, ‘Oh, this player’s the best.’ You can also say your peers think you did a really good job on that day.”
Briscoe, B-CC’s leading scorer, poured in five goals during last Friday’s 10-1 win over Damascus but still passed on the Baron. The recipient was freshman backup goalie Hugh Webster, who stopped seven of eight shots over the final two periods in his first varsity action.
“Coming in to your first varsity game and playing that well, it doesn’t happen that often, and it’s something to be commended,” Briscoe said.
For B-CC, which faces Wootton Friday, the Baron has become ingrained in the team culture. Wearing him generates, “a sense of pride,” Burton said, even if it took a little while.
“At the beginning it was more of a nuisance because people were making fun of you for having this ridiculous-looking doll on you during practice, but eventually people got used to it,” Briscoe said. “You basically get to lead the team. . . . People follow your example more because you have Barry on, and they’re like, ‘This is how it needs to be done,’ and it spurs people on during practice.”
At 4-3, Flint Hill has managed to put itself squarely in the center of the Northern Virginia Scholastic Hockey League’s junior varsity division this season. Next season, the Huskies are set to get a boost from their athletic department when the hockey program is promoted from a club level sport to varsity status.
The process of promoting the team to varsity began in September when Flint Hill coach Pat Morgan approached the school’s administration to ask if a move up might be possible. From there, Morgan said Flint Hill headmaster John Thomas and athletic director Steve Henry planned without the coach’s input until early December, when they informed Morgan that his team would, in fact, be a varsity team next season.
“It was a quick process,” Morgan said. “I got the news right before the holiday break and it was a nice little holiday gift, you could say.”
The news was a welcome surprise to his players, who found out during their first semester final exams.
“He e-mailed us saying, ‘great news, we’ve just been promoted to a varsity team’ and when we opened it we couldn’t really believe it, to be honest. I mean, no one thought it was going to happen,” sophomore goalie Jack Jenet said. “I couldn’t believe it. A lot of the players have been talking about making it a varsity team or talking with some of the coaches, but we had no idea it was going to happen. We all just saw that e-mail and we kind of screamed and high-fived all around.”
The most tangible benefit of the promotion will be money. As a club team, players and their families have to pay expensive dues in order to play on the team. With dues that Jenet said ran $700 for this season, some at the school were unable to afford to join the team. Next season, with the financial burden resting on the school’s athletic budget, Morgan and his squad hope to draw better players.
“Some people might not be able to afford it, but they’re still able to play hockey,” sophomore center Mitch Mahoney said. “Even this year, we didn’t have enough players signing up for the team. We can have more players this way.”
The promotion, and the funding that comes with it, will also likely afford the Huskies more ice time for practice. As a club team, Flint Hill generally practices just once a week, and sometimes even less than that during the season. With more practice, Morgan said he expects his team will improve enough in coming seasons to move up to the NVSHL’s top division.
“A school funded program like we are, I don’t know how long we’ll be in the JV division,” Morgan said. “I know that our skill level will get better as we get on the ice a little bit more next year, which will be great to see. Our league goes by skill levels, and that’s one of things that’s going to be important for us, to increase the skill level, which I know the kids are committed to doing.”
No MSHL team has played more games than Churchill’s 10, and the Bulldogs lead the way with eight wins and 16 points. . . . Churchill plays Walter Johnson Friday before taking on top-10 foes DeMatha and Whitman next week. . . . DeMatha split its games last week, falling against an under-18 club team before beating Calvert, 2-1 on Tuesday.
1. Gonzaga (11-3-1) LW: 1
2. Stone Bridge (6-0) LW: 2
3. Atholton (5-0) LW:3
4. Landon (7-2-1) LW: 4
5. Briar Woods (5-1) LW: 5
6. Churchill (8-2) LW: 6
7. DeMatha (12-8-2) LW: 7
8. Whitman (5-2-2) LW: 8
9. Woodbridge (3-0) LW: 9
10. Marriotts Ridge (6-1) LW: NR